Hundreds of survivors of the Holocaust are set to be vaccinated this week in Austria and Slovakia as part of vaccine drives organized in observance of the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, a day known as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
More than seven decades after one of the darkest periods in human history, the generation that endured the Nazi death camps is aging and especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. Jewish leaders have long pushed to prioritize their inoculations.
Some 400 people aged 85 and older, many of them Holocaust survivors, were being vaccinated in Vienna on Wednesday, according to the Jewish Community of Vienna, which helped organize the program in cooperation with the Austrian Ministry of Health.
About 12 doctors were administering vaccinations, according to Erika Jakubovits, executive director of the Jewish Community of Vienna, who helped organize the event.
“I think we owe it to our parents and grandparents to take care of these Holocaust survivors,” Ms. Jakubovits said on Wednesday, speaking by phone from a vaccine center.
A similar program was underway in Bratislava, Slovakia, according to The Associated Press.
“People are very happy,” Ms. Jakubovits said. “I think these are our most vulnerable members of society, and we have to treat them accordingly and to try to do everything for them.”
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, this week called on European leaders to ensure that Holocaust survivors, who like other people of advanced age are extremely vulnerable to the virus, were given access to the vaccine. The organization estimates that approximately 20,000 Holocaust survivors are still living in Europe today.
“Throughout their lives, they have shown mighty strength of spirit, but in the current crisis, many have sadly died alone and in pain, or are now fighting for their lives, and many others are suffering from extreme isolation,” Dr. Kantor said, speaking during an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event held online this week.
“We have a duty to ensure that Holocaust survivors are able to live their last years in dignity and in the company of their loved ones.”